Below are Glen’s thoughts on his attendance of Religious Instruction classes at Gardenvale Primary School during the ’90s.
I remember when I was in primary school I wasn’t quite an atheist, but I seriously doubted the existence of, at least, the sort of god being described by the priest who came down to “educate” us. I went to Gardenvale Primary School from 1989 to 1995 and had to deal with the compulsory Religious Instruction (RI) until 1995, when I forged a note from my mother, opting myself out of Religious Instruction. There were two of us who had opted out. My friend’s mother had actually written a note herself, asking for him to not be included in the nonsense. We would sit there for about 45 minutes to an hour each Friday afternoon, in the classroom, while the other children were participating in Religious Instruction.
Two faiths were represented, obviously indicative of the area; Judaism, and Christianity (Specifically, Anglican, I believe. When I was 11, I didn’t really care about or understand the differences too much. Truth be told, I still don’t.) My 11 year-old thoughts, raised on news and documentaries, classical mythology and many other things, just couldn’t comprehend the idea of this god that both the preachers would be going on about. They’d speak about god’s love, and I would think of the footage of mass graves in Europe and Africa, or the vivid images of Mayan sacrifices that would flash through my head. To me, it is incomprehensible for ANYONE to believe in a god, let alone a loving, benevolent one, when confronted with things like the horrific magnitude of the Second World War and the associated attempted genocides, Rwanda, The former Yugoslavia, etc.
Additionally, I just “LOVE” the fact that all the god-botherers are so insistent on getting to children. They know that rarely does anybody come to faith of any description in adulthood if they have not been raised and conditioned by it. And on the flip-side of their insistence on digging their abusive claws into our children’s minds, most of them will point to, as an example, the Hitler Youth as a horrifying example of mental abuse inflicted upon children. Do they not see the conflict?
I will certainly be opting my children out of Religious Instruction if it is offered at their schools, when they are old enough to attend. They are currently three and almost one year of age. I will be insisting on an alternative. The ethics classes are a fantastic idea. The response of children to them in the trials in NSW has been positively glowing. Not only does it teach children what religion has wrongly and selfishly claimed for its own for so long, but it does it without an ulterior motive. It doesn’t seek to perpetuate nonsense about primitive sky-gods. It doesn’t teach them to abhor someone based on selective readings from an ancient text which, really, we should pay no more attention to than, say, the story of King Arthur or the Cthullhu Mythos (HP Lovecraft, gotta love him). For example, the Christian perspective on homosexuality is taken from the same book in the bible that also prohibits the eating of pork and various other bizarre “laws” and creeds. Certainly. Something to live your life by? Not so much.
My experience of Religious Instruction wasn’t anything dramatic or horrifying. It was more annoying— the same way certain people, when I was in the scouting movement, discriminated against me as an outspoken atheist. If you’re not familiar with the religious peculiarity of the scouting movement, look into it. In particular, the Scout Oath. Very unsettling. I had a great time in cubs, scouts and venturers, aside from this one detail.
Either way, though, religion has no place in public education, government, or any sort of situation in which it impacts unfairly or dangerously upon the lives of ordinary people. In particular, our children.